This Irish animated feature howls up the beauty and love of humans and animals.
“Wolfwalkers” is the latest animated feature from Irish director Tomm Moore, who also made “The Secret of Kells” and “Song of the Sea,” and I must say it’s a beautifully drawn and emotionally complex feature that possesses the spirits of humans and animals-man and beast. It reminds you of “Princess Mononoke,” “Brave,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “How to Train Your Dragon” in that notion, and provides characters who are wonderfully written and profoundly voiced.
I’ve viewed this online from the Middleburg Film Festival, and I was dazzled by its colors, characters, and environment. These days, foreign animated movies are the only ones to be traditionally animated, and when we do get them, we must appreciate the love and craftsmanship placed in them.
The story is set in Kilkenny, Ireland in the 1600s, and where a city, run by the ruthless Lord Protector (voiced by Simon McBurney), protects its people from the giant forrest where the wolves reside. The workers must clear out the trees, and extinguish the wolves at any costs.
The main heroine of the story is Robyn (voiced by Honor Kneafsey), a young lass, who moved from England with her hunter father (voiced by Sean Bean), and aspires to one like him. She also hears about the legend of wolfwalkers, which are humans who communicate and stay connected with wolves. They even have healing powers that requires howling. When you’re awake, you’re a human, and when you’re asleep, you become a wolf. And your wolf form must touch your human form in order to be normal again.
Breaking the rules, she sneaks out of the city and follows her father in the woods, where she comes face-to-face with a young wolfwalker named Mebh (voiced by Eva Whitaker), who bites her and cures her wound. But that doesn’t prevent Robyn from becoming a wolfwalker. These two wolfwalkers are both adventurous and spirited, but even they have their struggles. Robyn’s wolf form would put her in danger in her own city, while Mebh’s wolf walker mother (voiced by Maria Doyle Kennedy) is missing, and her human form is still sleeping.
One of the elements I adore about “Wolfwalkers” is how colorful the animation is. Its choice of colors are both radiant and vibrant. For example, I love how Robyn has blonde hair and blue eyes, while Mebh has red hair and green eyes-all of which are drawn perfectly and are given attention to detail. And their beauty and colors match the great voice acting from Kneafsey and Whitaker and their personalities. These animated movie girls are both strong and independent with qualities from other animated heroines like San from “Princess Mononoke,” Merida from “Brave” and Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.” And the adult characters-consisting of Robyn’s father, Mebh’s mother, the ruler, and a goofy sheep farmer (voiced by Paul Young)-are all drawn passionately and voiced tremendously.
Certain moments have to be obligatory in kids’ animated features, but they’re overpowered by Moore and co-director Ross Stewart’s unique filmmaking skills and the animation team they’ve assembled. This is one of the most gloriously animated features of this decade or any decade.
In select theaters this Friday
Streaming on AppleTV+ December 11